I cannot resist mountains, especially if an observatory sits up there. And that’s why when a friend called me to go up to the Pico dos Dias Observatory for the weekend, I accepted without too much thought. Screw classes and appointments, Astronomy awaits to be done! So, here I am, giving some support to the observations and enjoying the free time to take pictures. There is a problem though: the Moon is almost full, so the brightness washes out the fainter stars and it illuminates the environment, making it look like day. So, pictures of the night sky are not that plentiful.
On the other hand, observations are running somewhat smoothly. Even though the data is not for any of my work, I try to be helpful, so I am exercising my rusty observational muscles a little bit. Machines are incredibly interesting, so operating a 1.60 meter telescope is always a blast. It is like a car, every little piece has to be working perfectly in order to have a smooth run.
From my experience, every single day, for every single telescope I worked with, there was always a problem, a nuisance that took a few minutes or even hours to be fixed. I remember when a friend and I were observing at this same telescope, suddenly the dome stopped working and it turned out to be a mechanical failure in one of the gears. In La Palma, I recall we having some problems with the communication between the computers and the telescope. And here, so far we had an issue with the dome controlling, but a simple reboot in the dome system was enough to do the trick.
I’m having a good time taking pictures from this visit to Pico dos Dias Observatory. Making compositions with an almost full Moon is a bit tricky, because you can’t use longer exposures (or a larger aperture, or larger ISO, for that matter). But it is fine, we do what we can. Actually, the moonlight can make some pretty cool effects, you just have to learn how to explore the surroundings. For instance, the mountains that would otherwise be completely dark in a moonless night show their beauty and magnificence under the satellite’s illumination. And the effect becomes even cooler if there a few city lights to help compose the frame. But they are crappy for Astronomy purposes, light pollution is not cool for that. So, yeah, I’m a “half-full cup” kind of guy, you gotta enjoy the good aspects of everything. So, kick back and take a look at some of my favorite pictures, and I hope you enjoy them. At the end of the post, you’ll find a photosphere I took here at the observatory yard.